John Lesson 5 - A Wedding Sketch
Miracles, signs, and wonders were part and parcel of Christ's Messianic ministry on earth. But was their ultimate purpose? In this message, Stephen takes us back to Jesus' very first miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana to show us how, when and why it all began.
A Wedding Sketch
There are some sermons I preach that I know will be somewhat controversial - I think that every sermon from John has been that way so far. . .this is one of them - it should give you some material for discussion around the lunch table this afternoon. If indeed it does, I ask that you be kind to me around the lunch table and remember that underneath this dogmatic exterior, is a kind, loving, warm hearted individual who wants to be loved by everybody. . .so sit up and listen.
Know as well, that if anything I say raises questions or offenses, please come and see me so that we can talk through issues more thoroughly. Everyone here in this auditorium is welcome here, regardless of what you believe or who you voted for in the last election.
There are three words in the New Testament to describe what we call miracles...evidence of the supernatural. When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost he used all three words in relation to the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ.
Acts 2:22. He was "approved of God among you by miracles, and wonders and signs.
1) miracles - dunamis means powers or mighty works; John never used this word.
2) wonders - teras which is used only once by John
3) signs - semeion is used by John seventeen times. And the first appearance is here in John 1 as it related to the miracle of turning water into wine.
What Peter summarizes in his sermon for us is that Jesus Christ employed all three of these . . . miracles, wonders and signs. Why? To prove His deity.
Jesus' miracles were never simply naked displays of power, conjuring up tricks to impress the masses, but signs - significant displays of power that pointed beyond themselves to deeper realities about Himself.
Now, in front of us is the first "sign" given by Jesus. What did this sign reveal?
Well, in case we miss the main point, look at verse 11. This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.
Two reasons for this miraculous sign:
1) so that His glory would be revealed (his divine attributes)
2) so that His new disciples would believe in Him.
That's quite a powerful impact. Now, frankly, the first time I read this passage, I didn't see any more in here than Jesus turning water into wine.
How could turning water into wine have such an incredible impact so that it actually revealed Jesus' messiahship and glory and caused his disciples to believe in Him?
All we have here is a brief sketch. . .that leaves out a lot of details, yet gives us enough to, like these disciples, see the glory of Christ and have our faith enriched.
So let's start at the beginning of the story.
John 2:1. And on the third day there was a wedding in Cana of
Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Stop for a moment here.
The intimate relation between Yahweh and Israel, the nation, is portrayed over and over again through the image of the marriage covenant. The disciples of Christ are likened to wedding guests rejoicing with the bridegroom in Mark 2.
The fullness of the messianic age was prophesied in Isaiah and spoken of so beautifully through the symbol of marriage.
62:5. For as a young man marries a virgin, so your sons will marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will
rejoice over you."
The imagery of a wedding feast is used later with Israel declining the invitation to come to the wedding and therefore, the invitation goes out to all and anyone to become part of the kingdom of God - Matthew 22:9. The King said to his servants, "The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. God therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast."
SO...it's highly suggestive then that Jesus' first miracle, inaugurating His invitation to the kingdom, would be a sign given at a wedding!
now notice verse 2. And Jesus also was invited, and His disciples, to the wedding.
A wedding in those days was a great and long celebration, and it usually kicked of late in the evening. On the evening of the marriage the bride was led, usually by a spectacular torch lit procession, from the home of her parents to the home of her new husband. They would sing and chant as they walked along. All the guests of the wedding party would be part of this procession. Once they arrived at the grooms home, the marriage formula was pronounced and all the legal documents were signed. After the prescribed washings and benedictions, the marriage feast began. You see, back then they didn't have honeymoons - what they did have was a week long celebration with everyone who had been invited from the village and family taking part.
The bride and groom would remain dressed in their finest bridal clothing - they were treated like a king and queen, in fact, they were actually addressed as king and queen. They wore make believe crowns made from flowers...there would be feasting...
In a life where there was much poverty and constant hard work, this week of festivity and joy was one of the supreme occasions.
And verse two tells us that Jesus had made it on the invitation list.
Now your perception of Jesus would be something a little different that him attending a wedding and a week long celebration.
He's too holy to have fun right? My friend, Jesus was no severe, austere killjoy. He had a terrific sense of wit and humor that he was usually unleashing on the religious leaders.
He was the God man who loved life! We would do well to follow that pattern. . .and smile every so often. I read recently that children laugh 400 times a day...adults 20. Some Christians go around with grim looks and long faces.
One of my professors said, the look on many Christians would make terrific front covers to the book of Lamentations.
Charles Spurgeon in his book, Lectures To My Students, wrote, "I commend cheerfulness to all who would win souls; a genial happy spirit. There are more flies caught with honey than with vinegar, and there will be more souls led to heaven by a person who wears heaven on his face than by one who wears Hades in his looks."
There are many Christians who if they ever find themselves in the company of people who are having a good time, they immediately suspect that the cause of the fun is either illegal or fattening!
Not Jesus Christ. . .here He is, an invited guest to the wedding.
Now the Mormon church has an interesting interpretation of this passage - they have taught for years that Jesus, a polygamist, married the sisters Martha and Mary, and that a descendant of one of their children founded the church. In some of there circles it is being taught that the wedding at Cana was in fact, the Lord's own wedding. This is an ingenious interpretation - in fact, someone here deserves a medal for remembering to invite Jesus to his own wedding.
Most men start forgetting things after they are married. Jesus had forgotten his own wedding?! No, Jesus was among the invited guests. . .can you imagine, 20 years or so later, looking through their wedding memorabilia and this couple sees the signature in their guest book, "Jesus", or simply remembers that He had been there.
Wise is that couple today, who invite Jesus to their wedding!
Now this wedding celebration just about ended in tragedy; v. 3. And when the wine gave out,
the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine."
Now in the east, wine at a feast was essential. The rabbi's taught, "without wine there is no joy." It was not that people were drunken; in fact, drunkenness was such a disgrace that they were careful to mix wine with enough water to prevent it. Wine in fact, was there primitive system of purifying the water.
It's a passage like this that raises questions in good people about the subject of drinking. Here you have Jesus creating wine. The question is, does the Bible teach abstinence? No. . .in fact you read that Paul encouraged Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach sake. The Greek could literally be translated...
But what is often the missing ingredient in the discussion is the fundamental difference between the wine that the Bible allows and the wine from Winn Dixie.
In fact, careful comparing of scripture and culture will reveal that what we are buying and drinking today is comparable to "strong drink", and that was prohibited in scripture.
One historian wrote, "Wine today has a much higher level of alcohol than wine in the New Testament, In fact, in New Testament times one would need to drink 11 8 ounce glasses of wine in order to consume the same amount of alcohol found in 1 martini. In other words, he wrote tongue in cheek, "It was possible to become intoxicated from N.T. wine, but one's drinking would affect the bladder long before it affected the mind."
Those who today, try to find a green light in drinking the modern day alcoholic beverages overlook the basic difference between wine that was acceptable in Jesus' day and the beverages of today.
What was God's protection from drinking something that was considered intoxicating/ "strong drink" - Solomon writes, "Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper."
GEISLER QUOTE! "In summary. . .
This passage is one that is so misused, "Well, hey, if it's good enough for Jesus... He created it. . ." I am compelled at that point to defend the character of Christ. It is utterly impossible to imagine Jesus not only being present at a drunken party but actually creating the substance that aided in their drunkenness is inconsistent with His character.
Ladies and gentlemen, what I find equally tragic is that our society is finally waking up in this post prohibition generation to the dangers and travesties of alcohol, while at the same time the church is embracing it.
How is it that secular magazines are now decrying the fact that alcohol is America's favorite drug...and the church is teaching responsible drinking. . .another term for "moderation".
How tragic that in our country, more than 500,000 children are termed alcoholics . . . and many of them got their first drink from their own kitchen refrigerator. More than 50% of them living in homes with parents who claim to be religious.
It's not the first time that the church, in the name of liberty, has strangled common sense.
What Jesus is about to create is one of the most fantastic tasting wine of his day - his own recipe, his own selection of spices and with just the right blend of the best grapes.
Fermented? Of course, otherwise, the water would not have been purified; but strong drink? Like that sold in modern day America? Absolutely not, or Jesus would have violated other scriptures and in so doing, would have sinned.
We'll get back to the actual miracle in a moment. But first look again at Mary's statement 3. And when the wine gave out, the mother
of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine."
You need to understand that in the East, hospitality was a sacred duty; it would be terribly humiliating for the bride and groom to run out of provision. In fact, we have extant evidence that a family guilty of such a lack of foresight could actually be fined.
But even greater would be the symbolism, that to run out of wine would be tantamount to admitting that neither the guests nor the bride and groom were happy. It would be terribly embarrassing!
Now Mary evidently must have been close to either the bride or the bridegroom to have such a personal concern for the success of the festivities, or even to know that the supply of wine was gone. Maybe Mary was actually assisting in the preparation and serving of the banquet.
She comes to Jesus for help. That's no bad, she's learned to rely upon his strength and wisdom. Joseph does not appear on the scene here and many believe that he was actually deceased... Jesus himself was not only known by this time as the carpenter's son but as the carpenter (Mark 6:3) Apparently the family fortunes had, up to this point, depended on Jesus' manual labor. Like any widow, Mary leaned hard on her firstborn son.
And here, Mary, knowing the power of Jesus comes to Him and tries to prod Him into action.
And that's where she makes her mistake. It's interesting that only two times in the Gospels, is Mary attempting to influence Jesus as his mother - and both times, she is rebuked.
4. And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what do I have to do with you? My hour has not yet come."
Now the tone here is not rude, but is certainly abrupt. Jesus calls Mary by the term "gunai" or woman. It could be rendered "kind lady" or "dear woman".
But note this; this term is never found in Greek writing between a son and a mother. It is not a Hebrew or Greek practice. . .in fact, as one commentator pointed out, when Jesus called Mary, woman instead of mother, he was clearly indicating a different relationship between them as he now enters his public ministry. It's a term that stresses a separation between the two parties while at the same time remaining courteous.
There was one other time that Mary tried to influence Jesus during his ministry, and again He distanced himself from her.
JOHN PHILIPS QUOTE
Time magazine reported in a late 1991 cover story, "A grass roots revival of faith in the Virgin is taking place worldwide. Millions of worshipers are flocking to her shrines, many of them young people...the late 20th century has become the age of the pilgrimage toward Mary."
The record of scripture is different. . .the teaching that Mary is in heaven now to receive our prayers and in so doing can influence her son is not supported by Scripture; in fact, the record of scripture clearly suggests the opposite.
Barclay translates verse 4 - "Lady, let me handle this in my own way."
Now, the only command Mary ever gave that's recorded in scripture is found in verse 5 - I love this - who did she say obey? His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."
v. 6 Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each.
7. Jesus said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled
them up to the brim.
Now we've been clued in that this miracle was a sign - in other words, Jesus didn't turn the water into wine because he didn't want the party spoiled. . .he had deeper truth in mind.
Arthur Pink writes, "Judaism still existed as a religious system - there were purifications, but it ministered no comfort to the heart. It had degenerated into a cold, mechanical routine, utterly destitute of joy in God. Israel had lost the joy of their marriage to Yahweh.
Here are these 20 gallon stone pots - people would come and the servants would pour water from them onto their hands in a prescribed fashion. This was external cleansing - Jesus is about to give a sign of internal consumption with wine that had long represented joy!
Religion can never produce joy!
The world today is filled with cold religion - external ceremonies, sacrifices, oblations, chantings and processionals - it can never bring joy. Jesus Christ has come to give you and I, not a new religion but a new relationship.
One author writes, "He changes the water of the law into the wine of the gospel; the water of Judaism into the wine of Christianity.
v. 8. And He said to them, "Draw some out now, and take it to the headwaiter." And they took it to him.
Stop for a moment - imagine being one of the servants - first of all they are told to fill the water pots with water and look - they fill them up to the brim. Then Jesus says, take some of it to the headwaiter. This Rabbi's a little strange. And we're about to get blessed out by the headwaiter too for bringing him well water!
These servants are wonderful illustrations of you and I. . .the duty of obedience belongs to us. . .it is ours to fill up the waterpots; it is ours to take it to others. . .it is Christ's to make the water wine.
v. 9 And when the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom,
10. and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first, and when men have drunk freely, then that which is poorer; you have kept the good wine until now.
It's like me eating chocolate cake - one of my favorite indoor hobbies - the first bite - oh man, I can taste every nuance of chocolate - the tenth bite, so - the third piece - hey, it's chocolate - so here with the staple drink for the festivity.
What we have here is an incredible miracle - everyone's stunned and, undoubtedly Jesus is recognized.
Now there are many who deny the miraculous - like some liberal Baptists I know.
That this wasn't a miracle. . .it was just a joke, turned into fact.
Dr. Leslie Weatherhead writes, "The wine runs out. Water is served. Why that's the best joke of all! They lift their wine-cups as we do in fun and when we shout, "Adam's ale is the best of all." The bridegroom is congratulated by the master of ceremonies, who carried the joke farther still. "Why you've kept the best wine until now." It requires only a servant going through the room into the kitchen for a wonderful rumor to start."
You know, I've honestly wondered why these people even read the Bible. Much less preach...It doesn't matter if he wears a robe or turns his collar around or wears a blue suit and a white shirt - any cleric who denies the miraculous is denying the Messiah. I'm making all sorts of friends up her aren't I.
It's hard to believe that verse 11 was the result of a joke or rumor - "This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and
manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.
This miracle was undeniable - it was supernatural - it was the first revelation that this callused carpenter was indeed Jesus Christ the Messiah.
This miracle was a sign:
!To Mary - that Jesus will no longer be influenced by maternal ties, but by paternal design.
!To the disciples - that Jesus has the power to transform elements of nature at his command.
!To the servants, then and now - that Jesus has chosen to perform his wonders through the willing efforts of obedient people
!To all people, then and now - that Jesus offers to replace for empty, external religion with joyful internal reality.
Look back at verse 11 - Jesus manifested His glory when he caused the wine to flow and, in fact, left the newly weds, some 90 gallons of wine as his wedding gift. From the sale of that they were probably able to afford a real honeymoon.
But the word glory is the Greek word doxa from which we get our word doxology. Jesus began to reveal His deity, His attributes, his power, his glory.
And so we sing:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow:
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly host,
Praise Father Son and Holy Ghost, Amen!
In summary, as Norm Geisler of Dallas Seminary wrote, "Though fermented wine was drunk in Bible times and though the Bible approved of wine-drinking, one needs to remember that the alcoholic content was much less than that of wine today. What is used today is not the wine of the New Testament! Therefore Christians ought to recognize that wine, beer, or other alcoholic beverages are actually "strong drink" and are forbidden in Scripture.
A Bible expositor of the Explore series who has represented the Moody organization for decades wrote in his commentary on John, "At the time of John's writing, various Gnostic errors were already taking root in the church. The day would come when the Roman Catholic Church would proclaim Mary as free from original sin. The imaginations of men and by church dogma she would be exalted bodily to heaven. She would be given the old Babylonian title of "Queen of heaven." She would be called the "Mother of God". She would be proclaimed as co-redeemer and the devout would be urged to pray to her - on the assumption that she was possessed of the divine attribute of omniscience - since only one with such an attribute could hear and separate and comprehend and evaluate the millions of prayers addressed to her in a thousand languages from all parts of the world every single day. The devout were taught to pray to her because she was the Lord's mother and had influence over him and could get him to do what she wanted. Anyone who has been in Catholic churches, seen current news reports of papal activities, studied a Catholic catechism (which I have done by the way) or read church history knows to what heights Mary has been elevated. Many still hold to the dictum of one church saint who wrote, "It is God's will that we should receive all things through Mary."
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